Category Archives: Life in general…

Grace & The Art of Beer…

On the verge of yet another unwanted birthday, I find myself taking inventory of my life.  It’s not easy growing older, but practice makes perfect, right?  Walking home from my cross fit session at Invictus this morning my thoughts were of the word grace.  I have no clue as to why.  It is such a simple word on the surface but it holds so many meanings that are relative in my life now.  I looked it up when I got home and here are a few of the many definitions that struck a chord:

  • elegance or beauty of form, manner, motion, or action:  Synonyms: attractiveness, charm, gracefulness, comeliness, ease, lissomeness, fluidity.
  • a pleasing or attractive quality or endowment.
  • favor or goodwill. Synonyms: kindness, kindliness, love, benignity; condescension.
  • moral strength: the grace to perform a duty.
  • manifestation of favor, especially by a superior  Synonyms: forgiveness, charity, mercifulness.

It is really hard to maintain grace, especially given the pressure of a hectic life.  But I realize it is a very important thing for me to work on.  With every year that passes I have to try harder to maintain it under pressure and goodness knows there are times when I just flat-out fail!  I make heaps of mistakes but thankfully most around me are of the forgiving nature; another thing I need to improve about myself.  It’s tough right now and I need to find the courage and inspiration necessary to forge ahead each day while working my hardest to maintain grace.

This may sound silly to some but I find this courage and inspiration each & every time I walk in the front door of CrossFit Invictus.  I am not the fastest, the strongest or the most skilled in the workouts; but the community at Invictus makes me feel strong and determined.  Coach Nichole in particular is my inspirational rock.  I am forever in awe of this amazing young woman.  Through her coaching, I am learning to celebrate my accomplishments, regardless of how small they may be.  She reigns as the “Queen of High Fives” and praise from her is in limitless supply.  Nichole personifies the definitions of grace and she serves as a constant reminder of it’s importance in my personal journey.

I am honored to share my time with the folks that attend classes there also.  If I had a dollar for every time someone encourages me as I struggle, I would be the richest girl in the world.  There must be something in the water at Invictus because honestly every person there, staff and members included, exudes these qualities.  I derive a great sense of pride from being a part of “The Sea of Green”.  I feel so much stronger when I walk out of there.  If I had limitless funds, I would give every person I know the gift of experiencing this community.  Walking through that door for the first time in April was the best thing that has happened to me in a very long time.

I turn 52 on September 15th and I feel better than I have in a long time.   I will be spending my birthday up in Oakland with some people that are special to me and you can bet that some delicious craft beer will be shared.   I look forward to yet another year filled with good health, friends, travel and happiness.  I am thankful for all that I have and I will not dwell on what I lack.  I will try harder to forgive, even when I hurt the most.  And oh yes…I will try my hardest to maintain grace.

xoxo
TheArtofBeer

The High Atlas Mountains

Today (December 26) I hit the road to the Atlas Mountains about an hour outside of Marrakech.  On the way there we drove through the suburbs and there is construction everywhere; everything from hotels to shanty towns.  Much of it stopped midway because funding dried up and demand dropped as economies around the world fell apart.  Climbing into the hills, small villages pop up.

The High Atlas is home to the Berber People.  Farmers and craftsmen, they are amazingly gracious hosts.  I got to share Mint Tea in the home of a Berber Family.  It was a remarkable experience to say the least…

The Donkey's Bedroom! All the animals have a space in the lower level of the home.

The Hammam

Summer Living Room

In the Berber Kitchen

The Toilet

The Berber Home as viewed from the living room looking out to the outdoor living space.

The typical Berber house can best be described as “spartan” and there is little in the United States that can compare to this level of poverty.  The people here are poor but their homes show pride, importance of family and a total respect for order.  This is more than I can say for many middle class American homes, much less those of our poor people  in the United States.

Homes are usually passed down through families and it is not unusual to find multiple generations living under one roof.  The structures are simple and lack modern conveniences like plumbing, heating and weather protection.  Seasonal rains can bring misery to the families living in these homes.  They must climb the roof during the rains to patch the holes

Moving further up the mountain I visited a women’s coop where they process the Argon nut to make various Moroccan-Exclusive products.  The women working here are divorced, widowed or without financial support.  Moroccan culture does not lend many rights to women and many of them are left with no means of support after marriages fail or spouses die unexpectedly.

Processing the Argon Nut is cold and difficult work.  The women sit for hours in a cold damp room shelling and grinding the seed of the nut to produce the precious oil and paste.  Arthritis is a common ailment here. Co-ops such as the one seen to the left give women shelter, income and value.  The proceeds of products sold go to the cost of operation and the wages for the women working there.  Compared to our standards in the US; this is a very hard life.  But keeping things in perspective; these co-ops present a path for women to achieve independence and security.  There was little pressure to buy the products produced here but you would need to be devoid of compassion to not to want to support this very important community.  As a business person, it was hard not to think of ways to increase sales and productivity.  Resources are very limited here.  There are no phone lines to run credit card machines that would allow for higher sales volume.  The cost of wood and fuel is very high.

No matter where you turn in Morocco you will find people selling local (and sometimes not so local) wares to tourists.  With 1 in 3 people unemployed; it is hard not to appreciate the survival instincts of these people.  the Berber people farm,  herd sheep and raise some cattle.  They also make rugs that range in price from $10 to thousands of dollars based on the process used for making them.

Berber rugs

In the hot summer months, people from Marrakech flock to the Atlas Mountains, seeking relief from temperatures as high as 120 degrees.  There are outdoor cafe’s lining the banks of the mountain river along the road.  I could easily pictures hundreds of families enjoying the cool water, shade and a delicious tagine.

Riverside Restaurant

20-30 degrees cooler in the summer

Berber Village

Another Village nestled against the mountains

Snow Capped Peaks of the High Atlas

I hope that I can make it back to the Atlas Mountains on a future trip to Morocco.   I would like do some trekking through this region and  experience the culture in a more personal way.  There is a big difference between staying in the luxury Riad’s of Marrakech and staying in some of the modest hotels lining the Atlas Mountains.  One thing I am however certain of, is that hospitality level of the hosts will be equal, regardless of the place I stay there.  The Moroccan people are the most gracious hosts imaginable  and they want visitors to feel welcome and safe.  My deepest respect goes to the people here.

My journey continues but part of my heart remains…

“Dirty Jobs” – The Fes Episode

Working at a Tannery in Fes, Morocco is one of the most difficult jobs imaginable for this Southern California girl.  It is back-breaking, dirty and smelly, but one of the best paying, working-class jobs in Fes.  The men working here, do so to better provide for their family.  For this,  I have the utmost respect. Their pay is about  300 Dirham per day which equates to approximately $35 U.S. Dollars.

Large stacks of raw skin arrive on the backs of the amazing little donkeys I described in my last post.  I won’t go into great detail about the process other than to note that a solution made with  “pigeon excrement” ( a natural form of ammonia) and some other natural ingredients are what you see in the white vats above and my understanding is this solution acts as cleaning mechanism for the raw hides.  The other vats you see are the colors used for dyeing the skins.  I hope to come back and add the origin of each color once I have a better internet connection.  All of the pigments and processing ingredients come from natural sources.  They “DO NOT” use dangerous chemicals.

“Ignorance is Bliss” for me when it come to things like this but I force myself outside of my comfort range to make sure that my sense of reality remains in check.  It is often a source of conflict for me.   I admit I am a omnivore and this will likely not change for me, but as a person that also loves animals, it is important that I make choices to support ethical treatment.  It is not difficult for me to understand why people choose to be vegetarians and I can appreciate the grounds for their decision.

No animal is killed in Morocco for its hide.  The skin is a by-product with nothing wasted in this practical society.  I will also note that I am told there are no native Moroccans that are vegetarians.  My Medina guide, Hassan, told me that eating meat is a fundamental part of Moroccan culture.  I have no means to confirm this statement but based on my experience so far;  I tend to believe it; shy of it being absolute of course.  There are however, many people living in Morocco that have immigrated here from various parts of Europe; the largest numbers being French.  It is conceivable that there vegetarians among them but it would make for few choices eating out.

I left the Tannery a little nauseated and a bit more knowledgeable about the process used to make leather.   I am glad I forced my boundaries to experience this.  With each day I spend here, my appreciation for the Moroccan people  grows.  Six days in to this journey, I can say with confidence that this is one of the best trips of my life.

I end this post listening to the afternoon Call to Prayer.  It is a sound I do not tire of hearing.  It is not an inconvenience;  as has been expressed in tourist blogs.  It is the way of the people here — accept it and appreciate it as part of your learning experience when traveling.  I do not have the share the same beliefs nor do I agree with many of them, but I respect the ritual and what it means for them.   It speaks to the dedication of  the peaceful Muslim people.

Stayed tuned for a future post on this subject…

Go in peace…

Lessons Learned from Running…

Some fairly ominous clouds are rolling over head this morning so I decided to postpone today’s run until a little later.  So here I sit on the couch, enjoying a cup of coffee, pondering my need to run when I know how hard it is on my aging joints.  The answer is quite simple really.  Running comforts me…no matter what ails me.

I have never been a fast runner, but I love distance!  My father used to call me Forrest Gump because I would take off from their house on Cap Cod and run 10-15 miles like it was nothing.  I found peace when I ran.  My father was dying from lung disease and I used the solitude of running to help me cope with my fear of losing him.  As the years passed, running became my sanctuary from the things that hurt me.   I had to work past the pain of shin splints or a cranky knee to get to the place where I had that euphoric feeling of hitting my stride.  All my troubles disappeared during that time and life was good.  When my mother was ill in 2001, I had to run hours on my treadmill in the garage with a baby monitor in the cup holder so I could hear her if she needed me.  It was my way of escaping without leaving her alone.  The year she died, I ran countless miles to help me deal with the loss.  During this past 6 months I have used running to deal with yet another loss in my life and suffice it to say, running is helping me to sort through the noise.

My days of running 40 miles a week are long gone and I am just as happy running 10-20 now.   I try get up at 4 am a few days a week to get 2 or 3 miles miles in before work and I always set a goal of 5 miles for both Saturday and Sunday.  On the weeks when I travel, I accept the fact that I have to do without my week day runs.  It’s just too hard to fit into a busy schedule on the road.  Instead of feeling guilty about it, it actually makes me appreciate my weekend runs all the more.

I think running is actually teaching me some much-needed lessons right now.   I am learning to take pride in the fact that I can run at all  and I am learning to feel great about my accomplishments, regardless of their size or distance.   Getting out there and putting one foot in front of the other is the important part.  Looking back with pride, regardless of the distance or pace, will give me the motivation to do it again tomorrow.

Life is about the journey and I pray I can keep running on mine for years to come…

xoxo

TheArtofBeer

PS – The beer tastes better after a good run 🙂

Reducing My Impact on the Planet

You have to start somewhere and I began this journey a few years back.  I have done very well with some of the things I set out to change, but I need improvement on others.  Here you will find my list and I encourage you to start your own.  It takes a lot of drops to fill a bucket and any contribution you make will help the bigger cause.

My List…

1.    Use no plastic bags – use only canvas, reusable shopping bags

2.    Drink water from a glass or stainless steel bottle – avoid plastic water bottles at all costs

3.    Carry reusable travel cup for coffee

4.    No High Fructose Corn Syrup – No Exceptions!

5.    Use reusable containers for food storage and taking lunch to work

6.    Buy fruits and vegetables that are in season and that are grown in CA

7.    Buy ethically and humanely raised meat and eggs – must be pasture raised

8.    Shop for 50% of food at Farmer’s Market and avoid anything in a package

9.    Eliminate 25% of my “stuff”  – Donate to charity.  If it has not been used in 6 months, donate it

10. Use no Styrofoam products

11. Reduce trash by avoiding packaged products

12. Eat out less – target goal 75% of food consumed should be cooked at home when not traveling for work

13. Reduce purchases of anything new to 2 items per month – clothing, shoes, accessories

14. Return egg cartons to farmers market

15. Buy milk and crème in glass bottles that can be returned and reused

16. Purchase recycled paper products – toilet paper, tissues

17. Use cloth napkins and towels whenever possible

18. Use natural cleaning products – enzyme and citrus based

19. Do not buy foods with ingredients I cannot pronounce or identify

20. Volunteer for sustainable food charity that promotes healthy, natural food choices for children

Words of advice…Start small so you feel a sense of accomplishment early on.  The more you feel you are succeeding, the more you will want to do.  Convert a few friends.  Doing the right thing is contagious and it feels great.  Celebrate even the smallest victories.  Drink a beautiful Craft Beer in honor of your accomplishment.

http://noimpactman.typepad.com/

Life is short-make a difference!

Peace…

TheArtofBeer

Here’s to 2010!

Happy New Year!  I hope everyone had a festive evening and that heads are not terribly sore today.  It’s the start of a new decade and I for one am very excited about it.  I am an eternal optimist for the most part and I am choosing to believe that 2010 has good things in store for me.  I think I actually deserve it after the E Ticket ride I had this year!

New Year’s Day is typically a very social day for the Scottish people.   They visit friends and family; eating & drinking up a storm.  But I am using it as a day of reflection.  I am counting my blessings and planning for really good things to happen.  I am looking forward to a date tomorrow with a guy I actually still like after seeing him several times — that’s very cool and something I haven’t been able to say in a very long time.   I am healthy, happy and most importantly, at peace with myself.  It has been a very good day!

My New Year’s Resolution –  “I will work on being a better person” – it’s as simple as that.  I just plan to go a little extra each day to make a contribution to the planet and to the people living on it.  Just think of the possibilities if each and every person did one thing daily to help someone or some cause.  I am guessing we would see significant change.

I wish everyone the best things in 2010 and I have faith in all of you.  Tonight I will drink a beer and toast to your health and prosperity – Cheers!

Love & Kisses “TheArtofBeer

xoxo

Warmest Holiday Wishes from TheArtofBeer!

It is the Eve of Christmas for those who celebrate it and regardless of faith, this time of year is one when family and friends should be celebrated.  I have personally struggled with my faith for many years but it does not preclude me from appreciating and respecting what the holidays mean for others!   It has been years since I had a family to share the holidays with but I am blessed with fantastic people in my life who care about me as if I were family.

For those spending the holidays with family and loved ones, please remember to be patient and love them with all your heart.  There will come a day when your memories will carry you through.

The "Beer-O-Temp" Selection

Today I celebrate by cooking a special dinner for some friends.  I cook with love and nothing makes me happier than spending my time preparing for guests.  The fridges(s) are stocked with the usual amount of amazing craft beer and I am thrilled to share any of these amazing selections with my friends.  I am a tad bit obsessive with the beer collection so I think it’s good that some of the supply will be reduced today.   I just can’t seem to help myself…IT all looks so delicious and I feel it is my personal duty to sample as many amazing selections as I can.  Stop buying so much beer !

Note to self…”New Year’s Resolution #1″

The Prime Rib!

Roast Potatoes - Brussel Sprouts - Winter Harvest Pilaf

I am serving a beautiful 10 lb – 5 Bone Prime Rib purchased from Home Grown Meats in La Jolla.  Please note that I reduced from a 7 Bone after I realized it would feed a small country!  If you live in San Diego I highly recommend this place.  The beef is locally, ethically & humanely  raised.  There are no hormones or antibiotics used.  These are things that are very important to me when I make food choices.

Roasted Fingerling Potatoes!

In addition to the Prime Rib, I am serving a Simple Green Salad, Fingerling Potatoes roasted with onion, garlic and Herbs of Provence and roasted Brussel Sprouts!  For those squincing face up in pain at the mention of brussel sprouts – I challenge you to taste mine.  They are delicious and soooo good for you.  There will also be a Winter Vegetable Rice Pilaf courtesy of Whole Foods!  Hey…The Art of Beer only has so many hands!
The beer parings are to be determined when my guests arrive but suffice it to say I have all the bases covered!  Rumor has it there will be a Brew Dog Tactical Nuclear Penguin tasting!  For those picking themselves up off the floor…I’m sorry!  I promise we will Tweet reviews later this evening — if we are still capable of typing that is!
For each of you I wish Love, Peace & Happiness for this Holiday Season!  Remember to hug you family extra tight and tell them how much they mean to you!  Today more than ever, I cherish the memory of mine…
Love,
TheArtofBeer
XOXO

Midwest Micro Brews Santa Claus! aka Michael Bergman

Twas two weeks before Christmas in my unemployed house….days were spent posting resumes and wishing I had a spouse.  What is that noise at my door that I hear?  It’s Midwest Micro Brews Santa with a box full of Beer!!! Away from the door I flew like a flash.  I tore open the box in awe of the stash!

Midwest Micro Brews!

The heave of my breasts and the after sex-like flushed glow,  do justly describe how I felt as I looked into the box below.

Now Cran-Bic , now Coffee Stout & Imperial Saison, On Spotted Cow, On Cracke’d Wheat – next Fat Squirrel – Damn Right On!

Leading the pack with an unbelievable might – Hinterland Pale Ale leads us straight into the night! And as I exclaim this so outta sight, Merry New Glarus Belgian Red to us all and to all a flippin’ awesome craft beer night!

Hinterland Pale Ale & New Glarus Wisconsin Belgian Red - OMG!!!!

When the worlds got you down and your life is in tatters…Reach out to great friends cause they are truly what matters!  Who would think that a box of beer could bring so much joy?  Those who know this wonderful community full of great girls & boys!

What Heaven Looks Like!

My sincerest thanks to Michael Bergman for such a generous gesture that truly made this day fantastic.  I will see this as yet another sign that the job in Indiana is my destiny…

COURTESY OF MICHAEL BERGMAN!

When One Door Closes Another One Opens…

Most of the people inclined to read this blog are interested in my love of craft beer and my genuine love for the people associated with it.  I have developed some amazing new friends over the past year related to my activity on Twitter and truthfully, it has changed my life.  No matter how stressed out I am about my job, my finances or my life in general, talking about beer makes it all better.  In some ways I think it has even made me feel young again.

This morning I had to face the fact that I am no longer employed and I would be lying if I said I am not devastated.  I love what I do and I am good at it but that is not always enough at the end of the day.  I will not bore anyone the details but the past year of work has been pretty difficult.  A bad economy often brings out the worst in an organization and that was certainly the case in my humble opinion.  Two people I loved and admired were casualties close to a year ago.  The writing was on the wall then.   My only regret is not looking for other opportunities during the past year.  I was being eternally optimistic and convincing myself that things would get better and I never stopped giving my job everything I had.  Lesson learned…

My mother always told me everything happens for a reason and remembering her words today is what is keeping me from falling apart.  It’s been years since my parents passed away but boy am I thankful to have the strong memories of their wisdom.  I have spent the past few hours thinking about all the things they would say to help me through difficult events.  Both parents told me countless times that when one door closes, another one opens.  Be it a boyfriend breaking up with me or having to give up a sport because of injury; my parents prompted me to buck up and move forward by uttering those words.

With every year of age, the closing doors seem to slam a little more harshly and recovering can sometimes take a while.  I am a person who always maps out worst case scenarios and while doing that today I realized that most of the “stuff” I have is nothing more than just that.  I don’t need stuff and maybe this is my wake-up call to adjust my priorities.  I have longed for something more meaningful in my life for a long time and maybe this is that time.

Suffice it to say I will be going through a tough period for a little while but hopefully that new door will open very soon.  Maybe it will even be an opportunity to do something in the craft beer industry.  Just writing that sentence brought a smile to my face.  I think I will write it one million times on paper so that I believe it to be true 🙂

To those that follow me on Twitter and have taken the time to read this post, thank you from the bottom of my heart.  Please send good thoughts my way.

Peace…Taylor

Great American Beer Festival

WOW! That is the word that best describes my 3-day experience in Denver at the Great American Beer Festival.  GABF presented an opportunity for many people connected through Twitter to actually meet face-to-face.  Suffice it to say, I met quite a few and several have become bona fide friends!

From the minute I landed in DIA and met up with @SudseyMaggie (aka Maggie Sudduth) and @BeachBumChris (aka Chris Spradley); I knew it was going to exceed expectations!  The festivities began at Falling rock where we had the chance to say hello to Dr. Bill Sysak from Stone Brewing.  Maggie recognized @Brewer_Girl from Wisconsin at the bar and she introduced us to the Nebraska Brewing gang.  What a “kick-ass” group of people and a fantastic way to start out my first ever GABF!  At 3PM we sampled the infamous Mojo from Boulder Brewing – Life was definitely good!